By Vivian Ihechu
Benedict Oramah of the African Export–Import Bank (Afreximbank) has reminded Africans on the need to see their foods as source of nourishment and binding force that cultivates a sense of community.
Oramah, President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the bank, said that over the years, food has influenced cultures of the world just like fashion and music.
He spoke at a “Jollof Rice War’’ competition, a side event by Creative Africa Nexus (CANEX) and African Food Changemakers on Tuesday at the hybrid IATF2023 in Cairo, Egypt.
The event had master classes and demonstrations which brought together famous chefs from Africa and the Caribbean, where Oramah also participated in the cooking on site.
Oramah said: “So, food is just another way for us to tell our story.
“We should talk about how African food is influencing all of the cultures .
“Talking about food, cuisine does not only take you to the end of the value chain of agricultural products.
“If it takes you to the end of the agricultural product, it means that we have to find a way to increase the way that our food is eaten and the scope of the spread, to attract the highest value of what we produce at home.
“So, going all the way to the culinary and gastronomy, it is a logical fine step to the journey of what it takes to return to Africa what belongs to Africa, to also preserve our culture.
Benedict Oramah of Afreximbank and Renowned actor Boris Kodjoe
According to him, food serves as a communal experience that goes beyond geographical boundaries, connecting peoples through shared culinary traditions.
He also said food and religion are intertwined, calling for preservation of food cultures and practices to promote biodiversity.
“Don’t forget, in many of our cultures, food is also part of the of religion, so to say.
There are certain kinds of food we eat when we do certain kinds of sacrifices, to the gods.
“I know other religions have come and those things are beginning to change, but because we use the food to celebrate those things, they bring a sense of community.
“Those who talk diversity, should also promote diversity in the food we eat.
“This is because if we preserve and develop our own food, we will now preserve the plants that produce them,’’ he said.
Oramah said in the context of global Africa, Africans should not allow our cuisines to be diluted so much by outside influences.
This, he said, had diverse outcomes, including health implications.
“If our cuisines are diluted by outside influences, our bodies will reject them.
We start having more non communicable diseases because our bodies, our genes, are not adapted to those kind of foods.
“Because we are beginning to negate a lot from cultural heritage, many things including the food we eat, that is why today, we are having phenomenal increase in diseases.
“So, as you promote our cuisines, gastronomy, we are promoting good health for ourselves.
“As we promote our cuisines, we are helping ourselves take commanding heights of our economy.
“If we promote our food, we will be preserving the environment.
If we promote our food, we will be increasing the sense of community.
“If we promote our food, we will increase the confidence we have in ourselves because nobody can come and tell us our food smells one way or the other.
“So, going forward at Afreximbank, thanks to our wives, who introduced this vertical in our work, we are going to develop it and we must thank all the chefs for helping us to realise that vision of CANEX.
“CANEX, the platform, to crowd source ideas, with one thing as a must in all of that, making Africa great again.
NAN reports that the programme develops a supportive farm-to-table ecosystem and addresses issues such as food sustainability, GMOs, local agriculture, the franchise business and the art of African cuisine.
It’s about celebrating African cuisine, supporting local food chains and empowering entrepreneurs.
Edited by Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma